Douglas, Ukeles & Greenpoint-Williamsburg

by Tassos Lockbird

1. “There are several ways in treating anomalies. Negatively, we can ignore, just not perceive them, or perceiving we can condemn. Positively we can deliberately confront the anomaly and try to create a new pattern of reality in which it has a place” [Douglas, 38]

After reading Mary Douglas’ text I think that the phrase above was what struck me the most. It is not a groundbreaking comment or something extremely original, but in that fact lies what makes it such a strong statement. That phrase could be used to characterize any kind of anomaly; physical, mental, social, and so on. If we consider dirt, garbage, refuse in general, as an anomaly of our social system that needs to be managed, it is really interesting to think of the words Douglas is using. Does a “new pattern of reality” lead to a “different” reality? How is the reality where an anomaly “has a place”? That is the reality that we are living in today and I found especially intriguing that such notions can be applied to the general idea of Waste.

 

2. What I found most appealing about Ukeles’ Manifesto for Maintenance Art was in large part the third part of her proposal for the “Care” exhibition, Earth Maintenance. The idea that mundane actions -that usually work only on a procedural level- like cleaning and purifying and recycling all sorts of waste containers, become an exciting part of a large scale piece of art is fascinating. Not only the exhibition would be contributing to a greater cause and create environmental awareness and inform people, most of all, it would blur the boundaries between art and social practice.

 

3. I have to admit that the only thing that I knew about Williamsburg were the hipsters. After reading around the Internet about its history and how we have come to its current state I can point out three interesting links that caught my attention:

– First, it is an article from May 1998 [http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/1998/05/17/1998-05-17_down_in_the_dumps_greenpoint.html] from the NY Daily News, which, I think, is even more interesting to read now, more than ten years later. Maybe most of you have already heard of all these things before, but eitherway, it’s the fact that we are reading this now, knowing what has happened that gives a different quality to some of the articles points.

– Second, it is a detailed statistic-like listing of all the Environmental Burdens of Greenpoint-Williamsburg [http://stage.nylpi.org/pub/EnvironmentalBurdens.pdf]. This is not something particularly meaningful but it definitely sheds some light on the various, hazardous types of Waste that “infect” the area.

– Third, and most important, is a volunteer-based organization that was formed by the residents of Greenpoint-Williamsburg [http://www.nag-brooklyn.org/]. It is remarkable what the members of this community/organization has accomplished and at the same time inspiring as far as unity is concerned.

 

 

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